Search Retargeting

  |  January 3, 2011   |  Comments

What is it, how it works, where search comes in, the value, how to get started, and concerns about user privacy.

Today I'm going to talk about search retargeting. This tactic has been around for quite a while, but few advertisers have really leveraged its potential.

What Is It?

Retargeting or "leadback" is a form of online advertising that enables brands to remarket to users who have previously demonstrated interest in their product or service.

The benefit of retargeting is that even if that user doesn't choose to further engage with your brand (e.g., doesn't take your desired action) the first time, you can still reach out to them in the future with your message and try to reengage them. Or even if the user does take a desirable action – such as downloading a product brochure – it may be desirable to reach them with subsequent messaging, to promote online purchase, for example.

How Does It Work?

Retargeting is done most often by placing an anonymous cookie on a user's computer after they come into your website and view or interact with your ad creative. This cookie will then be recognized by your advertising network or server, and prompt it to serve ads to that user any time they appear in the future.

Where Does Search Come in?

Search retargeting is a subset of retargeting, which enables advertisers to reach back out to users who have previously searched for their brand name or target keywords.

Search retargeting is done in two main ways:

  1. Retarget based on users who have come into your site via search
  2. Retarget based on users who have searched for your target keywords

What Is the Value?

As search advertising is often one of the best performing tactics in our digital marketing arsenal, we are often looking to invest more in this tactic. That said, when trying to reach niche audiences, our inventory is often limited and we can only efficiently invest so much in search marketing. Search retargeting provides another avenue to get in front of highly-targeted, motivated people who have demonstrated interest in what we're selling.

For users who have come into the site via search, we are getting back in front of users who are most likely to convert. Because these retargeted users are already somewhat familiar with your brand, they don't need to spend time learning about your product or service, and are therefore more "ready" to convert. The proverbial seeds have already been planted and are ready for sowing.

While retargeting those who initially came in via search can be valuable, the volume is usually quite limited. The largest opportunity to increase share of voice among active information seekers is by retargeting users who have searched for your target keywords. That's because even if we are investing substantially in search marketing, we are never going to be able to capture all of the search inventory.

Even if we're able to maximize our click-through rates, those captured by our sponsored search ads will still likely represent a minority of users. For example, if 100,000 people searched for your keywords in one month, and you have a 5 percent click-through rate on your ads, you will generate 5,000 clicks. What about the other 95,000 queries? Even if only one-tenth of these were actually unique searchers, that's still close to 10,000 prospects that you missed out on.

Search retargeting can help get your message in front of these users who are actively searching but that you have yet to capture via your own search ads.

How Do I Get Started?

Bought into search retargeting and looking to get started?

  • Search engines. If you're already doing paid search marketing, then you are very likely already working with Yahoo and Google, who both offer the ability to retarget. Yahoo's offering has been around for a couple years, while Google's offering is relatively new – dubbed "remarketing." Google's offering focuses solely around those who have come into your website through search, whereas Yahoo enables retargeting based on search behavior regardless of whether users made it into your site.
  • Ad networks. Most advertising networks that offer other types of targeting such as demographic, contextual, and behavioral targeting will also offer retargeting. Examples include AOL's Advertising.com and Tribal Fusion. And many that offer retargeting also offer search retargeting. Some do this by partnering with a third-party data provider such as cookie aggregation services (BlueKai or AlmondNet). Ask your network partner if they offer this service. Other networks that specialize in retargeting include FetchBack, ReTargeter, Dotomi, and Chango, among others.

Should I Be Concerned About User Privacy?

Just like other forms of behavioral targeting, retargeting has come under scrutiny recently due to the fact that it involves tracking – albeit anonymously – user's online behavior.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been undertaking a major initiative to address the privacy concerns that relate to online targeting of users based on their demonstrated behaviors. They are exploring means to increase transparency about these tactics and enable consumers to "opt out" of this type of targeting.

There has been a preliminary report written on the issue, which essentially provides a framework for approaching and addressing these concerns.

Advertisers should familiarize themselves with the recommendations in this report and ensure they are working with appropriate advertising partners who are adapting their technologies and approaches to meet consumer's privacy needs.

I know we will continue working with our trusted vendors to deliver retargeting in an effective and responsible manner.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Batten

Julie is a member of the senior strategy team at Klick Health, focused on online media and digital. Julie initially established and led the media practice at Klick for several years, relinquishing leadership to expand beyond media into additional digital tactics. She brings a wealth of experience in search marketing, digital media, and all facets of digital strategy to bear, helping Klick's clients develop innovative digital solutions. As her role has evolved, so have her contributions to ClickZ, which she has been writing for since 2007.

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